Yet again, the takeoff of a flight from New York to Israel was delayed because haredi (ultra-Orthodox) male Jewish passengers refused to sit next to women because their faith forbids it. The Dec. 20 El Al flight's takeoff was delayed for 30 minutes when haredi men balked at sitting between two women, and other passengers refused to accommodate them in protest until one passenger finally relented.
In October, a Delta flight was delayed after haredim refused to sit with members of the opposite sex, resulting in the plane arriving an hour late. In September, a group of haredim turned another El Al flight into a nightmare when they stood in the aisles rather than sit next to members of the opposite sex:
It seems that after takeoff a large portion of the haredi travelers took to the aisle to pray which, according to their fellow travelers, crowded the aisle and caused the flight to be unbearable.
"I went to the bathroom and it was a mission impossible, the noise was endless," [a passenger named] Galit said.
By any measure, the haredis' behavior is an asinine display. That one would board a plane fully expecting the crew and passengers to accommodate their wish to not be seated next to a member of half the human race is entitlement in the extreme. And yet not only are these unruly passengers who are disturbing the peace not kicked off the plane and arrested, but they are accommodated because they say those three magic words that in one breath excuse a host of idiocy, ignorance, and irrationality: "It's my faith."
This country has long debated the location of the boundary dividing the freedom to exercise religion and the freedom to be unmolested by religious interference. While this demarcation is not always clear and seems to shift from time to time depending on whims of the judiciary, the cases described above are so outrageously violative of this boundary, that it's simply reckless to keep tolerating more instances of them.
Since haredi men aren't likely to stop being sexist troglodytes anytime soon, the best way to handle haredim who refuse to take their seats is to arrest them in accordance with federal law which states,
"[N]o person may assault, threaten, intimidate, or interfere with a crewmember in the performance of the crewmember's duties aboard an aircraft being operated."
Refusing to take one's seat and delaying a flight is absolutely interfering with the ability of crewmembers to perform their duties, not to mention a safety issue, disturbing the peace, and perhaps even a false imprisonment of crew and passengers.
Because this keeps happening, at least some haredis have obviously not seen fit to take the steps necessary beforehand to ensure they'll be able to have the seating arrangement they want. Then again, in the personal responsibility department, many haredis are lacking. As a group, they disproportionately rely on welfare payments from the government so that they may spend their time doing the very practical business of studying the Torah all day. In this state of affairs, only 45% of haredi men in Israel are actually employed, compared to 61% of haredi women. This aversion to work has predictably put immense strain on the Israeli welfare system. And yet it is tolerated.
It may be their faith, but it's also other people's money and time. Like those who try to practice sharia in secular countries, these haredis need to be reminded that this is not their own personal theocracy where everyone else is expected to accommodate their strange, ignorant, and stupid -- yes, I dare call them stupid -- beliefs. And if they cannot or will not learn this, if they insist on delaying flights, or segregating city buses, or doing any number of things that are so grossly discriminatory, unruly, and a threat to public order and peace, then they should be arrested and charged just like any other unruly passenger would be.
Not only will this allow other passengers to travel on time and in peace, but it will send the offenders to more accommodative confined spaces where they can spend a night or two with members of the same sex.
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Photo credit: Amit Ben Natan